The Spartan Newsroom sat down with Michigan State University football player Gabe Sherrod shortly after he had sent a series of tweets supporting national protests against police brutality of African-Americans.
The defensive end’s statements came the day after Tulsa police released video of a white female police officer fatally shooting Terence Crutcher, a 40-year-old black man who was not armed. That weekend, at the Wisconsin game, Sherrod was among several football players who raised a fist in protest during the national anthem.
Spartan Newsroom: What was the message behind the tweets you sent out publicly supporting the BLM movement?
Gabe Sherrod: It’s not necessarily Black Lives Matter, it’s just what I feel is right for for our country. You know, I think we are still struggling with a race epidemic where we’re not willing to accept every side of every culture. As we say, we are a melting pot. So, you know, the things going on with crime, whether it be black-on-black, police brutality, right, wrong or indifferent, people are getting shot instead of being brought to justice the right way. So I feel like it’s only right that you just gotta express who you are and what you believe in and what you stand for. I will always be black, I’m an African-American till I die. So just standing for what I believe is right in terms of fighting for equity, not equality, but equity — where everybody can be on the same platform and live in a way where there is no strife between races or cultures or things of that nature.
SN: What was the reaction from your coaches after the tweets were sent out?
Sherrod: None of the coaches really said anything to me. I mean, coach D’s (head coach Mark Dantonio) after-press conference really spoke for itself where you have the freedom to do what you want. That was the only thing that I got from it.
SN: During the national anthem at the game against Wisconsin, you were one of three players that raised their fists. Why was that decision was made.
Sherrod: It’s about standing for your people. It’s just about being proud of who you are and wanted that represented across the country that I’m proud to be African-American, I’m proud to be here, and over the course of many, many years, without the ones before me it wouldn’t be possible. It’s not a sign of disrespect to the flag. It’s not a sign of disrespect to our veterans. It’s really a sign that African-Americans are Americans. We are people of this country just as well as any other culture. If you really look into the history of the national anthem, there’s a third stanza in the national anthem that talks about slavery that’s cut out. So what are we really standing for? To me, it’s not to disrespect soldiers and, like I said, veterans, it’s bringing awareness to the issues going on in society that are happening right now.
SN: Coach Dantonio was asked about the players raising their fists during the game, and he was supportive. What was the support you received from Dantonio?
Sherrod: I mean, basically what it boils down to is this being a free country, you know. Freedom of speech. Freedom of expression. As long as it’s peaceful, there’s nothing against it. And like he said in the press conference, until it’s time to face a greater enemy, he hopes that we all come together. So that’s really the same message that he’s giving us.
SN: Why are the programs here at Michigan State so important in terms of helping you understand that what you say can be impactful?
Sherrod: You gotta understand the platform that you’re on. We’re on such a big stage where anything you say or do can be turned into a national type of deal. Programs like that, I think they help the younger guys more. I think they help the younger guys more because they’re able to understand where they’re at. Understand that this is no longer high school. Everything that you say and do isn’t just held to your community or your group of friends. It’s held to your college campus. It falls back to your president, your coaches for bringing you here, the state of Michigan and so many implications that come with being a Spartan and with being a college student. At the end of the day, you’re a student at Michigan State University. You’re here to receive a degree from Michigan State University. So it’s about how can you be an effective attributor to Michigan State’s campus as a whole, not just be a football player, not just be an academic guy. How can you bring all that together and still have a social life where your persona or your image is seen in a positive light? That’s what it’s really about.
SN: How could these movements by athletes impact social media and create movements that affect younger generations positions?
Sherrod: There were already high school players doing the movement before I even did it on Saturday. It’s about getting people to be aware. You’re gonna see everybody talking about it on social media, whether positive or negative. That’s good. The negative is also good with the positive. Why? Because it gives the opportunity for the issues to be discussed. Whether it be negative where they come at me in a hateful way, or they come at other players, that’s fine. Because at the end of the day, their attention is on what I’m trying to get their attention to be on. That’s the beautiful thing about it. I see people say hateful things to somebody, but I can only smile because their attention is now being focused on what has been hidden for so long.
What are we doing as a society, what are we doing as people that these things are occurring in such a frequent manner? Raising the fist is just an opportunity to spark those questions for a solution. The sitting down during the national anthem is a way to spark those questions for a solution because it’s something that you don’t see. You don’t see people sitting down for the national anthem. You don’t see people raise their fists for the national anthem. Now you have every culture questioning why I’m doing it. Whether it be that you feel that I’m disrespecting veterans, you feel that I’m using my race as a crutch, you feel that I’m doing the right thing and I’m standing for black excellence or black lives. Your race doesn’t dictate how academically smart you are, your race doesn’t dictate how athletic you are.